Max Brenner was founded in 1996 in Israel by the original “bald man”, Oded Brenner, and past business colleague Max Fichtman.
Brenner had planned to be a writer, and in a bid to finance his writing passion, he took up the art of pastry making. This eventually led to Brenner travelling to Paris to learn the art of chocolate under the famous Chocolatier, Michel Chaudun, ultimately returning to Israel to open a local chocolate shop in the small town of Ra’anana.
Brenner felt that there was a sizeable gap between the way people talk and think about chocolate and the way they experience it in the real world. The observation was made that traditional chocolate stores treat chocolate almost like jewellery, in beautiful boxes, not to be touched. What Brenner recognised through daily interactions with his customers, was that chocolate had a wonderous, experiential, and nostalgic quality reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, romance, and childhood memories. Chocolate stimulated an emotional response.
Alas, the vision for the well-known Max Brenner Chocolate Bar (double-meaning, yes) was born, combining the name of the two cofounders.
This inspiration fuelled much of the creativity we see realised in Max Brenner Chocolate Bars today combining the experience of an indulgent eatery and chocolate shop, most of which (twenty-four, in fact) happen to be in Australia.
Max Brenner has had its fair share of challenges from conception sustaining negative public backlash in the form of anti-Israeli protests in Australia in 2011 due to the donation of chocolate care packages to Israeli soldiers.
The business also entered voluntary administration in 2018 due to rising costs and a tougher retail industry, shutting down twenty stores. To customers’ delight, the brand was salvaged in late 2018 via purchase by Roy Mustaca, an Italian-born, Australian opera singer and chairman of the independent cinema chain United Cinemas. While the vision of the original store remained alive under Mustaca’s leadership, the Covid19 pandemic brought economic challenges to service and retail industries alike. Max Brenner is now proudly 100% Australian owned, and with an unwavering focus on the customer experience (both online and offline), the brand is looking forward to a sweet future.
Roy Mustaca, new owner of Max Brenner (definitely not a bald man).
To sweeten the offering- the Max Brenner Loyalty program
Maxaholics can now enjoy exclusive Brenner-fits through the newly launched Max Brenner Loyalty App.
The program is essentially a loyalty currency program with some chocolatey benefits.
Members of the program can earn and save up Cocoa Beans with every purchase. Every $1 spent in-store or online earns the member 10 Cocoa Beans which can then be redeemed for any shop or menu item. To start the journey, new members earn $5 sign-up credit.
In addition to in-app exclusive offers, the program is centred around customer experience, convenience and value, offering:
- a free hot chocolate on member birthdays
- the ability to save favourite menu items
- skip the queue
- 500 Bonus Cocoa Beans for referring a friend
The in-app experience
The sign-up process is straight forward. Details such as name, address and favourite store are requested.
The app experience is clear with a logical interface. The home screen reiterates benefits with on-brand icons and contains some tactical promotions announcing:
- new winter menu
- new store openings
- reiteration of the referral bonus
- new product ranges
- e-gift card availability and;
- “Max Brenner is hiring” – hats off to the Max Brenner marketing team for calling this out through their Loyalty app as it ensures brand enthusiasts are given the opportunity to hear about openings providing continued passion for chocolate from the front-line
The second menu item is “Card” which confirms that registration has been successful and to check emails/Text Messages to verify account. Verification is waiting in inbox as expected. The app displays an individual barcode for scanning in store in order to collect Cocoa Beans with every purchase.
The $5 Hybrid cash credit is also available with the option to top up Hybrid Cash, though the purpose/incentivisation of this offering (when the member can simply use a standard payment method) is confusing. Zero Cocoa beans are displayed prompting a certain someone to head out to order a Tutti-Frutti waffle (with their credit) immediately, kickstarting their Cocoa Bean earning journey.
It appears inconsistent that a $5 Hybrid cash credit is provided upon sign up instead of awarding the same value in beans. Giving members a “head start” down the road to chocolate redemption would then activate the endowed progress effect, a psychological phenomenon originally demonstrated by Nunes and Drèze (2006) whereby the further a member is along the journey to unlock value, the more they will engage with the loyalty program. For the Max Brenner Loyalty program, awarding the Join Bonus in Cocoa Beans will stimulate frequency of patronage in a desire to earn more Cocoa Beans to access value via redemption.
The next tab, “Offers”, showcases Max Brenner’s offers, though unfortunately, the app does not currently display any available offers.
The “Order” tab gives the option to create a new order, reorder from history (how clever!) or order from favourites list.
The “New Order” menu item featured location services that when selected, show the closest or preferred store taking orders. It also provides the option to order from any other store. Upon selecting the preferred store for ordering, a menu is displayed for selecting and customising an order. Selected items are then added to the cart and pick-up time can be selected.
All in all the app is user-friendly and simple to use.
Does the experience stack up in-store?
The app was easy enough to use in-store. The barcode was scanned to claim the $5 Hybrid credit and the app displayed in real-time that the credit had been redeemed along with the correct points allocation towards the order.
It is unclear how one may skip the queue if the intention is to dine in-store. It appears this offer is only available for pick-up/takeaway orders. Given how lengthy Max Brenner queues can get, this was disappointing.
The lack of any in-app offers removes the satisfaction of instant gratification, particularly when in store. A loyalty consultant would ponder if the business was not adequately resourced to manage and refresh the loyalty program ongoing offers and evolution.
There was virtually no signage alerting customers to the programs existence in-store.
Taking Max Brenner Loyalty to the next level
There is opportunity to further indulge members of the Max Brenner Loyalty program. The opportunity to entertain and delight the customer to the full brand potential was noticeably missing.
Potential ideas for improvement and enhancement:
- Provide a dine-in option for pre-ordering through the app
- Chocolate events or collaborations- A member-only accessible collaboration between a reputable patisserie, biscuit brand, gelato store, liquor brand (hello Baileys), artisan bread-maker, restaurant, famous chef, MasterChef episode or even a day spa (chocolate body scrub anyone?).
- It is not clear how many Cocoa Beans are required to redeem anything from the outset.
- Gifting- There are limitless opportunities. Why is there no real appetite to offer some groovy Max Brenner bonbonnieres for weddings?
- Digital games
- A chocolate horoscope
- Surprise and delight elements for high spenders
- A digital stamp card for beverages
- A social-media viral cooking competition
The final drizzle
While the program ticks all the right boxes, there is clear potential to lift the Max Brenner Loyalty experience next level unlocking the original “Charlie and the Chocolate factory” vision held by the co-founder Oded Brenner.
The Max Brenner Loyalty program and app is a delightful and painfully overdue installation but as they say, better choco-late than never.